Looking for AFFORDABLE summer camps

It seems to be that time of the year already - time to arrange for summer camps. My 11 year old daughter LOVES summer camp, but the cost stresses me out. I simply can't afford the $500 - $600 a week that most camps seem to charge. At the same time, I usually don't qualify for need-based scholarships. So I'm turning to the wise folks of BPN. What are the most affordable - yet fun - camps in the Berkeley/Oakland area? Must be public transportation accessible. Full-day and half-day are both fine.

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The most affordable are the Ymca and the city recreation departments. 

Albany YMCA has a traveling camp for this age group. It is called Awesome Adventures. Each week the campers go on 3 whole day field trips by bus and the other two days they walk to El Cerrito pool and spend some time there. It is a full day camp, till 6pm.  You can allow her to sign herself out. Some weeks they are based at Memorial park, some at Albany Middle. My daughter said she would not sign up for the whole summer (too much traveling), but you can choose weeks with your favorite destinations, like Exploratorium, Boomers or Water World.

Our daughter loves Cal's Blue sports camp. It's $525 for two weeks. Not cheap, but a good deal for an all day camp that includes swimming and lots of fun.

Check out the multitude of camps run by the City of Oakland, City of Berkeley, City of Piedmont, East Bay Regional Park District, etc.  We had a great experience last summer with the City of Oakland's boating camp (they also teach sailing for older kids like yours!) and with EBRPD's camp for young kids.  Camps run by public agencies tend to be much more affordable as they are essentially subsidized by tax payers.  Typically you'll get a resident discount, but won't necessarily need to be a resident to participate.

You might want to look into Camp Edmo. They have a Berkeley and Oakland locations (among others as we attended in Marin years ago) and although their weekly rates are more in the $350 - $550 range, they offer sliding scale financial aid which is designed for families who need just a little help or a lot. You might want to take a look at their website. I pulled the url for the page with info on their sliding scale program - https://campedmo.org/resource-center/sliding-scale-financial-aid-program-2/

I hope this helps.


'Shake Rattle and Roll' is for 11+ year olds and up in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. Both my 15 year old and 12 year old sons started as soon as they were allowed -- at age 11.  They cook their lunch on campfires they make themselves (learning how to start a fire and build a safe one are part of what they learn), learn to carve wood with knives, make bows and arrows from natural materials, learn about local botany and what is edible, learn some archery.  They absolutely love this day camp and insist on participating at least a few weeks every summer still.  I can say it has even changed their lives in terms of them wanting to learn how to make things themselves and to have responsibility and passion for the outdoors. Although a few more boys than girls sign up, there are plenty of girls, too. This camp has an amazing history in Oakland Parks and Rec and is an absolute hidden gem of summer camps. It is also just ~$275 per week, 9 am - 3 pm, so half or almost half the price of many other day camps and yet I feel it is as good or better than almost all the other camps I've sent my kids to (Chabot, Galileo, SummerQuest, Cal camps). And, with so many other camps opening up in the past 5-10 years, it is also quite easy to get a space even at the last minute (or at least this has been the case the past 3 years, except for the advanced bowmaking week, which often fills up early)... I would think one could get there by AC Transit; the kids go throughout Joaquin Miller, Roberts and Redwood Parks but they meet at the Ranger Station on Sanborn Dr for drop-off and pick-up.  Reasonable after-care is also available (but the pick-up for that is up top closer to the Roberts pool).   http://www2.oaklandnet.com/government/o/opr/Connect/activities/index.htm.  Sometimes OPR is a little late getting information on the web and it may not show up until March.  If you want, you can call the Rotary Nature Center at (510) 238-3739 (who run it for OPR) to get information before it may appear online.

If the outdoors isn't your daughter's thing, another option our younger son did for several summers was Doug's Drama Camp (http://www.dougsdrama.com/) in which campers perform in original plays. Sessions are 2 weeks. Doug is great in directing the children and providing a fun and joyful experience for all. And the price is very reasonable -- again, about half the price of many other camps my kids have attended.  

I don't know where you are, but the rec centers in Berkeley and El Cerrito are very reasonable. You just look up your local rec center and "summer camp." They aren't super cheap, but $250/week is better than $400/week. 

In Richmond, there are VERY low-cost camps, like $50/week, but you have to be really quick to register the DAY they open registration.
More info here: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/428/Summer-Camps
People well get super-snotty about these camps but many of my friends and I have very happy kids in them. 

Does she have any interest in girl scouts?? There are 2 camp sessions each summer that are hecka cheap. 


Berkeley Day Camp (http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Recreation/Berkeley_Day_Camp.aspx) has been our go-to summer camp for almost 10 years (this summer will probably be the first time my oldest, who will be 14, doesn't go) and both my kids love it.  You drop off at one of several locations around Berkeley and their school bus takes kids to either Tilden or the Berkeley Marina for a day of adventures - hikes, fishing, games, arts/crafts, cook-outs, etc.  I think the cost is around $200/week, hours are 9 am-3:30 pm and they do offer after-care till 6 pm. 

Another low-cost camp we love is sailing camp at the Lake Merritt Boating Center (http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/opr/s/boating/OAK031578).  Also about $200/week and kids with no sailing experience can learn to sail, advancing each year till they are sailing at the Oakland Estuary.  Finally, for less "active" kids, Studio One in Oakland offers great art camp (http://www.studiooneartcenter.net/tws/lmbeloadpage.asp?compid=studioone&pageid=camps&searchfield1=9) also around $200/week.  Hope this helps!  Good luck!

My kids (son and daughter) always loved Touch the Earth in Oakland. The kids get dirty, build forts and do basic camp activities. 

UC Berkeley Golden Bear rec center and other campus based camps.
YMCA camps
City of El Cerrito and City of Berkeley camps.
Tilden Parks camps.

Sees the Day camp. Owned and operated by Kirk Cooper. It takes place in Tilden Park. Kids of all ages love it. There is a Web site.

Berkeley Day camp is fantastic and affordable. City of El Cerrito has fantastic affordable camps. Look at Albany too, but we like Berkeley & El Cerrito better. Additionally, the Albany Y's camps are good. My children have done their bicycle camp--loved it.

City recreation camps are really cheap (we did a couple of weeks at Oakland's Redwood Heights, and it was under $200/week), and this includes camps at Lake Merritt and parks up in the hills. I think Studio One also counts as a Parks & Rec location, also with lower rates.

Hi there - It's true the most affordable are the Ymca and the city recreation departments.